NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the Detroit Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
Off the ice, it feels like there’s never a dull moment for the Edmonton Oilers.
Connor McDavid is admonishing anonymous teammates for a perceived lack of buy-in. Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli continues to make … interesting moves, with Mikko Koskinen‘s extension being an eyebrow-raiser, and Ryan Spooner being a tragicomic waiver addition.
It’s almost easy to miss the actual on-ice product of a team fighting for a spot in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Oilers risk heading into the All-Star break on a three-game losing streak, as they fell 5-2 to the Flames on Saturday and 7-4 to the Hurricanes on Sunday.
McDavid and the Oilers face a Red Wings team that’s currently tied for last place in the NHL with 43 standings points. There’s plenty on the line, including Koskinen playing in his first game since signing that extension, so we’ll see how Edmonton responds on Tuesday.
It would be cool for McDavid to threepeat, even if it would be way more fun if 97 was instead winning, you know, more actual hockey games.
Enterprise NHL Premier Passer
This event has been a “wild card” of sorts in the skills competitions past, right down to the particulars. Usually there are adorable mini-nets, and this year’s will include that too. Here are the three phases of competition, via the NHL:
(1) Breakout Pass, where each player is given 10 pucks to attempt to make a pass to three “players”; (2) Mini Nets, where each player must complete a pass over a barricade and into each of four mini nets; and (3) Target Passing, where each player must complete successful passes to all targets that randomly light up every three seconds.
It’s tough to say that anyone would really have the “inside track” on this event. Alex Pietrangelo won in 2018.
The randomness is part of the fun, though … especially when trying to hit a tiny net in tough situations also leads to frustrations.
The players might not love it, though.
Ticketmaster NHL Save Streak
In 2018, Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 14 shootout attempts in a row, beating Pekka Rinne by one. Fleury and Rinne will get a chance in the 2019 version, while Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s sheer athleticism makes him a great bet to push the two veterans this time around. This shootout-related competition lends itself to some fun and absurd moments, so expect nothing less in 2019.
Gatorade NHL Puck Control
In the last edition of this event (which goes through three phases of puck control, with the “gate” portion providing particular zaniness), Johnny Gaudreau absolutely killed it. He figures to be tough to beat in this regard, although the NHL is brimming with talented puckhandlers, so who knows?
SAP NHL Hardest Shot
The savage simplicity of all those slap-shots has made the hardest shot one of the most entertaining portions of All-Star weekends for decades now. Reigning champion Alex Ovechkin is sitting this year out, so the field opens up.
Last year, Brock Boeser began his magical All-Star weekend by winning the accuracy challenge. It looks like Boeser won’t be around to defend that title (nor his 2018 ASG MVP), though.
This eye-friendly competition often comes down to who has the hot hand, but when you look at who’s shooting a high percentage despite heavy volume this year, some favorites emerge: Elias Pettersson (if healthy), Jeff Skinner, and Auston Matthews rank as just a few of the players who could shoot with the highest level of precision.
It would be pretty fun if the Vancouver Canucks saw one ray of hope (Pettersson) follow another (Boeser the year before) in All-Star Games, especially since Pettersson’s just been so much fun.
Who would you expect to win each competition, though? Which events do you look forward to the most?
The 2019 NHL All-Star Skills Competition will take place on Friday, Jan. 25 (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN) and the 2019 NHL All-Star Game will be on Saturday, Jan. 26 (8 p.m. ET, NBC).
Things get funky after Bertuzzi, whose three points being three goals makes for an easy tiebreaker. The rest are judgment calls, really.
It doesn’t help that there’s a little club of one-goal, two-assists nights where both assists are primary helpers. That was the case with Kucherov, Sean Kuraly, and Jeff Carter.
Kucherov gets one of the nods because, honestly, we really need to step back and behold his amazing run whenever we can. And the same should be said for the absolutely ridiculous Lightning, who are now on an 18-1-1 run.
Kucherov’s now at 75 points in just 45 games. Goodness.
3. Sean Kuraly
From a guy on top of the hockey world to someone who might not make these lists very often, Kuraly also enjoyed an aforementioned one-goal, two-assist night.
Considering his recent efforts, it seems well-earned. Kuraly had been suffering through a four-game pointless streak, yet he fired a healthy 14 SOG during that drought. The Bruins would end up needing all three of his points, too, as they won 3-2 against the Maple Leafs on Saturday.
Again, there’s a strong case for Carter to be in the top three, too. Goalies also had some arguments, including Carey Price, who pitched a 28-save shutout against the Avalanche.
Highlights of the Night
Conor Garland has been quietly building up a nice season between the AHL and NHL, but Saturday might just boost him up to the level of semi-mainstream consciousness among hockey fans.
It’s not just that he scored two goals in Arizona’s win against Edmonton. It’s that the first one went off of his face, and then he came back and scored another one that had to be reviewed. Garland is now on a four-game goal streak (six goals).
After getting glowed up for a 4-0 loss on Saturday, the Oilers turned around and won 4-0 on Sunday.
Talbot enjoyed a similarly dramatic leap. He surrendered seven goals to San Jose on Dec. 29, but has started 2019 off right, giving up only one goal in relief on Saturday before pitching a 39-save shutout against the Ducks.
This marks just his first shutout of the season, and despite this sterling performance, Talbot’s save percentage remains just under .900 at .899 through 23 games. Talbot’s in a contract year, so as unlikely as a big run feels, there’s at least added motivation, as he’s just as desperate as the team he’s playing for (at least for now).
Galchenyuk joins Patrick Kane as the only two players to hit three points on Sunday. Remarkably, Galchenyuk did so in six fewer minutes (14:42) than Kane (20:43) in their respective games.
The Coyotes forward got there with one goal and two assists, enjoying a +2 rating and firing three shots on goal. He’s heating up a bit lately, with six points in his last five games, and 11 points in 15 contests since December began.
This gives Kane 54 points in 43 games so far this season, with 31 of those points being helpers. Kane finishes Sunday tied for seventh in NHL points scoring with Tampa Bay Lightning wunderkind Brayden Point, although Point’s do so in one fewer game played.
Kane’s pass on Alex DeBrincat‘s goal was especially crisp and impressive:
Courtesy of the 2nd of his 3 in a 5-3 #Blackhawks win tonight, Patrick Kane reached 30 assists in 2018-19. As this shows, he's now done what only 5 other wingers in NHL history have pic.twitter.com/rBCnYDyuJm
Consider this a “shared” number one between Rantanen, MacKinnon, and Tyson Barrie, as they’re the three players who managed three points on Friday.
You could actually argue that MacKinnon enjoyed the better night, as he logged more ice time, didn’t take any penalties (Rantanen was whistled for four PIM), and fired an impressive eight shots on goal. Rantanen because two of his three points were goals, and one of those goals stood as the game-winner. Again, all three had a great night, so feel free to remix this as the Avalanche sweeping the three stars, if that give you warm and fuzzy feelings.
We’ll get to Barrie’s milestone accomplishment in the factoids section.
Did the Penguins go into the Spider-verse and channel playoff Matt Murray? The 24-year-old generated a 33-save shutout, and it came against the lethal Jets offense, which (clicks on calculator) should then make this could as a double-decker shutout. Or something.
Seriously though, Murray is on a streak that’s just about as impressive as the one his team is on. While the Penguins have won eight in a row, Murray is personally only one behind, as he’s on a seven-game winning streak. He’s generated two shutouts during that run, and the most goals he’s allowed in one game was three, and that only happened once.
The Penguins have added to their winning streak since this post went up, yet the thesis remains: goaltending is leading the way, and Murray + Casey DeSmith are almost certain to cool off eventually. Even so, this is a remarkable run, and Friday stands as one of Murray’s best performances.
Since returning from injury, Matt Murray has allowed nine goals in seven games. He's 7-0 in that stretch. I guess the Penguins aren't going to be trading for Jimmy Howard.
Seguin joined Rantanen as the only two players to generate two goals on Friday, and while Rantanen managed his three-point output in a 6-1 laugher, the Stars needed every bit of offense that they got from Seguin.
The scapegoated Stars star scored both of Dallas’ goals in a 2-1 OT win against the Capitals, firing four SOG.
Seguin also managed this performance without Jamie Benn, as the Stars’ captain missed the contest with an injury. Seguin’s now has two goals in each of the last two games, while extending his overall point streak to four contests (two goals, two assists).
People are going to rush to give Stars CEO Jim Lites a ton of credit for blaming Seguin and Benn while using language suited for 30-minute HBO stand-up specials, but make no mistake about it: Seguin deserves the praise.
A reminder that the Avs have employed some great defensemen, but few of them for very long. Also: that Tyson Barrie probably deserves more hype as an impressive scorer. Barrie scored 57 points last season … and that was in just 68 games. He’s now at 30 in 38 games for 2018-19 after a three-assist (possibly three-star-worthy) Friday, and managed an impressive feat:
#Avs Barrie has 278 points, passes J-M Liles for most by D in franchise history. "Finally nice to get it out of the way, put it behind me, something I can look back on and take pride in. Johnny Liles is a great guy and a great player … I will have to take him out to dinner.”